June 28, 2016

The UK government was reviewed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva on the 15 and 16 June 2016 in relation to their compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which the UK is a voluntary signatory.

Yesterday the Committee raised a number of concerns in relation to human rights protection in the UK which have a particular resonance given the uncertain future of the UK after the EU referendum last Thursday.

On the proposed replacement of the Human Rights Act, a key component of the human rights protections provided in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Committee noted concerns that such a measure may lower human rights standards and recommended, “the State party take all necessary measures to ensure that any new legislation in this regard is aimed at enhancing the status of human rights.”

The Committee recognised the importance of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland in assuring the future of human rights protections in this region of the UK, they expressed their regret that it had not yet been adopted and urged, “the State party to take all necessary measures to expedite the adoption of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.”

The Committee repeatedly raised its concern that the devolved administration in Northern Ireland was not present for the review and noted that it, “regrets the absence of representatives of the government of Northern Ireland did not enable it to have a full assessment of the enjoyment of Covenant rights in Northern Ireland.”

Following these recommendations, Human Rights Consortium spokesperson, Helen Flynn, stated,

“The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has made strong recommendations which are even more important at a tumultuous time for the constitutional settlement in Northern Ireland.

Human rights are a key confidence-building measure in our peace. The Human Rights Act forms a core element of the Northern Ireland peace settlement and should not be amended, repealed or replaced.

Through the Human Rights Act and a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland we can help bring certainty to people’s lives so that, whatever our constitutional future, their rights protected and respected.

We share the Committee’s disappointment that Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK not to send representatives to review. Our mission now as an NGO is to work with both the UK and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that these recommendations are implemented, as the Committee advised.”





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